Thursday, December 16, 2010

Notes from last night's ANC 4B planning meeting regarding the Curtis Chevrolet site

I attended the ANC 4B planning meeting last night. Present were Commissioners Sara Green, Yvonne Jefferson, Monique Michelle Smith, James Sydnor, and 4B04 Commissioner-Elect Doug Smith, as well as staff assistant Jim Irwin. Thanks to Michele Baskin for taking notes throughout the meeting; her summary follows, and additional notes follow the summary.

Noted by Michele Baskin:

This meeting was simply a planning meeting to set the agenda for the Dec 20 meeting. The agreed upon agenda will be sent out to listserves along with a compiled list of ANC4B commissioner's concerns relating to the Wal-Mart development. As discussed, the agenda will look something like this:
  • Zoning issue about restricting the Curtis Chevrolet site to commercial only (20 min)
  • Information presentation from Office of Planning about Large Tract Review process (20 min)
  • Wal-Mart community discussion (1 hr...?)
  • creation of special Wal-Mart committee (20 min)
  • filling of standing committees (20 min)
  • other regular business as agreed to by unanimous consent
The December 20 meeting will begin at 6:30 and could run as late as 9 pm. A draft resolution was reviewed which stated that the committee would be established at the December 20 meeting with a chairperson appointed by the Commission. The Chairperson will be either a commissioner or a resident. Membership to the committee can either be voted on by the commission or by another process that the commission determines.

Important question yet to be answered: can people outside of 4B serve on the committee? This will depend on the language of the resolution that is adopted. Commissioners did mention that it might not be wise to restrict membership to 4B residents only, as expertise could be lost. But it needs to be specified in the resolution adopted on December 20.

It was suggested to create a special ANC4B listserve for Wal-Mart issues only as well as a website to keep communication flowing to the community from the ANC and the special Wal-Mart committee/sub-committees.

Other notes from the meeting:
James Sydnor expressed concern about jobs in terms of the 600 current DC residents working for Wal-Mart in MD/VA and loss of other retail jobs, and Wal-Mart saturating market. He cited a statistic that Wal-Mart has negative effects on businesses for a four mile radius around it. He said that if that's true, it's bad news for DC businesses, since the four planned Wal-Mart stores are within 5 miles of each other.

Jim Irwin will try to get someone from the Office of Planning to come to the Dec. 20 meeting to talk about the Large Tract Review process. This item will lead off the Dec 20th meeting. Yvonne Jefferson reiterated Muriel Bowser's request for the building to be two-level (either more commercial or mixed-use), with Wal-Mart above and ground-floor spaces set aside for other retail. Sydnor expressed concern that the leases be manageable for small businesses if such a structure were to come to fruition.

Regarding the car barn: contrary to popular belief, it has not been designated a historic site.

Traffic issues were discussed. Sydnor noted that Peabody Street will be affected, it might have to become a one-way street. He also wonders if the new development on Riggs Road near the Fort Totten Metro would be a better fit for Wal-Mart. Jefferson said that a big grocery store is already in the works for that site, and we need to look at the impact this Wal-Mart might have on that large development.

Sara Green said several people have mentioned that the proposal is weak in the area of traffic, and that Wal-Mart knows it. Is 362 parking spaces enough? Will it be open parking or paid parking? Jefferson said the Large Tract Review will address the adequacy of the parking. Jefferson doesn't want to see Wal-Mart move in and put Safeway out of business, rather than providing healthy competition for the Safeway. Green - let's get people with real expertise on the committees -- union people, architects, engineers, etc.; also, let's find out what promises and projects Ward 1 able to get out of Target, and can we use that as leverage to get similar community benefits from Wal-Mart and Foulger-Pratt?

Sara Green pointed out that she's not sure, realistically, what the ANC's role can be in telling a private employer how to handle their workforce. She prefers to concentrate on areas that the ANC can impact, such as traffic, architecture. "We have 'great weight' on the Large Tract Review, but that's it." She understands that many people will consider anything short of stopping the Wal-Mart altogether to be a non-victory, but she also knows that there are a lot of people with power in this city who are determined to make sure Wal-Mart gets its way because their presence will "supposedly increase our tax base". Multiple commissioners reiterated that the LTR process is the only leverage that exists and can be used to slow the process down as long as they stay ahead of Foulger-Pratt.

Wal-Mart has said they will pay $8.75 per hour, which is competitive with other big-box retailers (Best Buy and H&M were cited as examples). Multiple commissioners parroted the Wal-Mart talking point of hiring local Ward 4 residents for jobs (which is only a promise and not enforceable...without a legally binding document, they can do what they want).

Jefferson said the city wants ANC4B to make a resolution for this development. F-P wanted it in January. That is not enough time to review the implications of what a Wal-Mart would mean for our community.

Green: Foulger-Pratt made a deal, and it was a deal between private parties. However, there are a lot of people who feel that F-P should chose a tenant for their site more carefully, and those people need to be heard. Can we pressure Wal-Mart to agree to meet with the community on a monthly process through this process? Can we consider that a "victory"?

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